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Exploring mathematical topics

Page history last edited by Betty Mayfield 13 years, 7 months ago

Take a look at some topics and tools of mathematics that may not be covered in a standard math curriculum.


Slide Rules

Gather some slide rules from colleagues, borrow a classroom set from the International Slide Rule Museum, or grab a virtual slide rule.  Then find someone who knows how to use them (or become such a person by reading a manual), and get him or her to teach everyone else.  Once everyone has mastered the basics, race to see who can solve a list of simple problems faster: the slide rule users, or the people working the problems by hand.



Origami, the art of paper folding, is fun in its own right, and has many connections to mathematical areas such as geometry, topology and graph theory.  Do origami for fun, using patterns from Origami Club, Origami USA, Origami.com and elsewhere.  Or, delve into the connections with mathematics; get ideas from Origami & Math, and Tom Hull's Webpage which includes links to diagrams, books, and You-Tube video folding instructions.  You can invest in genuine origami paper, or use printer paper in various colors, memo cubes (not sticky) or money.



Encoding and decoding secret messages is fun stuff, and also very mathematical.  Choose a few ciphers from Robert Lewand’s Cryptological Mathematics (such as The Vigenère Square and Playfair’s Cipher) or Martin Gardner’s Codes, Ciphers and Secret Writing (try The Shadow’s Code).  Make a short handout detailing your ciphers, or write some enciphered text on the board, and let the group try to decode it.  Perhaps the announcement for this math tea should include a coded message! 


Buffon’s Hot Dogs

Perhaps you have heard of Buffon’s Needle Problem, which gives an experimental way to approximate pi.  The method involves dropping needles on a grid, and counting how many of them touch one of the lines.  Here’s a new twist on this problem: wikiHow’s How to Calculate Pi by Throwing Frozen Hot Dogs.  It is lots of fun and somewhat messy.  You’ll need frozen hot dogs, a tape measure, masking tape and a place to throw the hot dogs.  (If you’re doing this inside, you might want some plastic sheeting too.)  Tip: Separate the hot dogs and make sure they are dry before you freeze them.  Or choose an alternate projectile; see the instructions for ideas.





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